Nearly each Devin Townsend album is exclusive and vital, but there was one thing actually particular about 2019’s Empath. In a means, it felt just like the end result of all the things he’d been working towards as much as that time musically and thematically; due to this fact, whereas it wasn’t essentially his undisputed masterpiece—it is arduous to select a single best LP from such a various repertoire—it is in all probability his most consultant.
Expectedly, its correct follow-up (not counting final 12 months’s ambient/experimental duo, The Puzzle and Snuggles)—Lightwork—arrives with almost insurmountable expectations. It is no shock, then, that it does not fairly match its predecessor’s epic scope, numerous palette, and emotional resonance. As an alternative, it evokes information resembling Sky Blue and Transcendence as a particularly satisfying however considerably acquainted and barely inconsequential assortment of tracks meant to tide followers over till the following main assertion. Even so, it is one other very good addition to his one-of-a-kind catalog.
That statement is not meant to be a knock towards Lightwork, neither is it meant to suggest that the album is making an attempt to be something bigger. The truth is, Townsend formally described it as “a bit extra of a ‘tune’-oriented album. A bit extra direct and easier than plenty of what [he’s] been doing currently.” He added:
“In case you’re already acquainted with what I do, Lightwork will in all probability then come as no shock, although my hope (as all the time) is which you could get pleasure from these songs for what they’re versus what they are not. I discover it straightforward to check to the final album or any of the opposite work, however I all the time get reminded on the finish that it was only a completely different set of circumstances that in the end required a unique method.
“After Empath and The Puzzle, issues sort of swung again within the route of extra conventional preparations for Lightwork. Lyrically, it sort of hints on the struggles of the previous couple of years however with an eye fixed on placing the items again collectively once more.
“Lightwork has an overarching theme of ‘a beacon within the storm’. The central picture is a lighthouse, representing something good in our lives we are able to grasp into throughout occasions of upset. I considered the intention of desirous to make music that helps folks in some small means as being one thing to maintain working in direction of amidst a sea of modifications.
Opener “Moonpeople” encapsulates these mission statements fairly nicely, as it is a very catchy and accessible (if not outright poppy) tune filled with Townsend‘s distinguishingly celestial soundscapes and soothingly operatic singing. Despite the fact that it is comparatively unassuming, it nonetheless manages to seize his knack for resourceful preparations, with components of commercial rock mixing with quirky orchestration, dissonant textural collages, and different trademark coatings. Even its lyrics (“Ode to the unknown / If we’re gonna face it alone / Do not belief the fearing of unveiling / Off to the unknown / I’ve typically wandered alone / It do not trouble me”) proceed his penchant for earnest introspection and inspiring attitudes.
Elsewhere, “Equinox” is simply as quick but much more dynamic, along with his bittersweet harmonies and instrumentation clashing with attribute screaming and abrasive percussion. It is magnificent, as is the downright heavenly and therapeutic ballad “Name of the Void” (“‘Trigger if you see the world’s insane response / To observe your coronary heart, the worst response is to / Freak out / So do not you / Freak out”). Later, “Celestial Indicators” is a equally easy—however nonetheless extraordinary—rocker, whereas the fittingly titled “Trip” is an virtually tropical acoustic ditty paying homage to Ki‘s “Coast.”
After all, Lightwork additionally delves into extra summary territory. For instance, “Lightworker” looks like a misplaced minimize from Empath in that it is concurrently colourful, calming, explosive, and symphonic. That includes backing vocals from prior collaborators Anneke Van Giersbergen and/or Ché Aimee Dorva, it completely exemplifies Townsend‘s means to specific fragility and fierceness on the similar second.
Afterward, “Heartbreaker” and “Heavy Burden” reveal his mastery of wildly adventurous and peculiar patchworks earlier than the sinisterly unpredictable “Dimensions” conjures—deliberately or not—prior gems “Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!” and “Reward the Lowered.” Lastly, nearer “Kids of God” is a densely divine hodgepodge of angelic singing, uplifting messages, marching drums, and powerfully regal instrumentation that’ll stick with you lengthy after it is over.
Slightly than copy the blockbuster selection and scale of Empath, Lightwork goals for humbler and extra approachable resonances. Even so, it is one other monumentally significant and impressive journey as solely Townsend may produce. Like a lot of his work, its musical and thematic virtues develop with every hear, totally enveloping listeners in a technically and creatively good net of feelings and philosophies. In that means, it harnesses all the things that is made his work since 2007’s Ziltoid the Omniscient so spiritually and sonically wealthy.
It is totally exceptional.